Bella Vista Foundation supports continued engagement in John Day Basin

June 21, 2017

PORTLAND – The Bella Vista Foundation awarded The Freshwater Trust (TFT) $135,000 to support several strategic initiatives to advance restoration and conservation in northeastern Oregon’s John Day River basin.

Part of the award will enable TFT to continue its role in the John Day Basin Partnership. The group of public agencies, tribes, conservation organizations and local landowners was formed in 2014 to explore watershed-scale, collaborative approaches to restoring the region’s freshwater ecosystems. Right now, the partners are developing a Strategic Action Plan for the entire basin, and support from Bella Vista helps TFT to continue serving as a technical advisor in the process.

This recent round of funding will also support ongoing data collection at current restoration sites – a chronically underfunded component of successful restoration and conservation. And the remaining funds will support planning and design for a new tree-planting project in the Middle Fork John Day River to improve salmon and steelhead habitat.

The John Day River basin has long been a priority for TFT. It has a nearly intact assemblage of native salmonids, large blocks of public ownership, degraded but repairable stream conditions, and community support for fish recovery. The basin provides key habitat for summer steelhead, spring Chinook, bull trout, redband and westslope cutthroat trout, and pacific lamprey. Bella Vista has funded TFT’s work in the John Day since 2006.

“For over a decade, the Bella Vista Foundation has been instrumental in advancing our restoration efforts in the John Day,” said Spencer Sawaske, hydrologist with TFT. “We look forward to putting this most recent award to work.”

Past Bella Vista grants have provided crucial funding to evaluate the impacts of TFT’s restoration work in the basin. One example is a water temperature monitoring and modeling campaign on Reynolds Creek to evaluate the impacts of water use agreements with area irrigators. A portion of this recent round of funding will go to monitoring similar type projects, including a long-term study to evaluate the macroinvertebrate response to increased summer streamflows resulting from a water use agreement on Rock Creek.

TFT looks forward to planning and designing a new revegetation project.

“Water temperature has a powerful impact on fish in the Middle Fork,” said Sawaske. “Thanks to past support from Bella Vista, we have identified places where shade is most needed. Now we’re going to design a plan from that data.”

Using science, technology, policy and finance, TFT builds and manages solutions that improve water quality and quantity strategically, collaboratively, and from a watershed scale. The organization currently has projects on the ground in Oregon, California and Idaho.

“Every watershed in this country has a multitude of players who have an impact, and therefore, solutions that are employed should be strategic, integrated and collaborative,” said Sawaske. “The John Day Basin Partnership is an example of how a group can really band together and pursue the most pressing actions, the most valuable projects and the biggest opportunities. That is how we will make the biggest progress for rivers in need. ”

The upper John Day and the upper Deschutes are Bella Vista’s primary focuses in Oregon. The foundation funds efforts that focus on protecting, restoring, and revitalizing five watershed ecosystems in both California and Oregon.

“Since the early 2000s, the Bella Vista Foundation has been interested in funding innovative projects that seek to improve and protect freshwater ecosystems in California and Oregon,” said Annie Yates, Executive Director of the Bella Vista Foundation. “For years, The Freshwater Trust has been developing proposals that fit that bill.”

The foundation prioritizes proposals that are part of a cluster of projects in a given watershed, involving one or more organizations over time, and those that foster collaborative partnerships even among groups with divergent interests.

“The Freshwater Trust understands the complex nature of restoring a basin,” said Yates. “We are impressed with their investment in the John Day and their willingness to work collaboratively and strategically to make a difference.”